Thermometers and Cold Holding by Barry Parsons



My one pet peeve in regards to cold holding is when teams rely solely on the thermometer on the outside of the cooler or freezer. I find that they tend to give a false sense of safety. The Food Code says that they can be ±3°, but how many of your staff members actually remember this and verify? If the temperature reads 41°F, the food could be 44°F. I suggest covering the exterior thermometers. This forces staff to look at the internal thermometer when documenting temperature checks. It is always important to have a thermometer inside of each cooler and freezer. In walk-in boxes, there should be one thermometer in the front of the unit and one in the back.
 
There are numerous brands of thermometers on the market such as Swift Sensors, SmartSense, AcuRite, VersaTrak, to name a few. It takes careful thought and consideration on which brand/style is best based on your specific needs. The Wi-Fi units are wonderful and provide continuous monitoring. Make sure to have one with an alarm that includes text or phone notifications when the temperature goes out of range.
 
One issue seen during inspections is the blockage of air circulation due to cases of product being pushed against the walls. Cases should be six inches away from wall to allow for proper air circulation which helps adequately maintain the temperature of the food. Also, sometimes the wired shelves are covered with foil, paper, or cardboard which can also block air circulation.
 
The importance of maintaining a minimum cold holding temperature of 41°F or lower cannot be stressed enough. This helps shelf life/shrink and more importantly, preventing/reducing bacterial growth on food. As mentioned in previous blogs, you should have records that you are checking your cold holding temperatures on a set schedule. The records are to verify the food remains safe. If the temperature rises above 41°F, you are aware of approximately when and can determine if the food is beyond the four-hour regulatory boundary in which the food must be destroyed. Your decision to keep or destroy the food must be based on some type of time/temperature information because someone (management or owner) is going to want to understand the reasoning behind the decision to keep the food or throw it away in the trash.


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